Efforts to protect children in Steuben County during the past year have been a “tremendous success” according to county District Attorney Brooks Baker.
The county’s Child Advocacy Center (CAC) – a joint program between the DA and county Department of Social Services and Child Protective – has conducted 214 child interviews during investigations of alleged abuse and neglect during the first year of operations, Baker said.
“That’s five times what we expected,” Baker told the county Legislature’s Public Safety and Corrections Committee recently.
The increase was fed by a 90 percent uptick in reports of physical or sexual abuse and in juveniles abusing other juveniles, according to county reports.
“The data is shocking,” said county Department of Social Services Commissioner Kathryn Muller. “The Child Advocacy Center provides a safe, family centered environment in which impacted youth can receive services. The program reduces trauma to children by reducing the number of interviews conducted.”
Funded by the NYS Office of Children & Family Service and NYS Office of Victim Services, Steuben has assisted in investigations by the FBI, Livingston, Schuyler and Yates counties and New York State Police, Baker said.
The state-funded center was first approved by the county legislature in late 2018 with implementation delayed by COVID-19. The DA’s office also is a part of the CAC’s multi-disciplinary team, which operates from the center providing a safe, child-friendly setting to conduct interviews and to provide advocacy for child victims and their non-offending family members in which allegations of sexual or physical abuse are present in either a criminal or child protective investigation.
The CAC Mobile Unit is used for victims and families that require services but are unable to travel to a permanent site, or where expedient services are needed.
“Comprehensive wrap around services are provided to all victims and their families, allowing them to begin the healing process from day one,” Muller said. “The partnership with DA Baker and his office has made this program highly successful.
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